Credit: Lily Green
Credit: Lily Green

Blogging Brazil with Oxford's modern explorers

Stuart Gillespie

A group of Modern Languages students from Oxford University are documenting their time abroad in Brazil via the BBC.

'Para Inglês Ver', or 'For the English to See', is a series of blogs hosted by BBC Brasil that allows the students to share their impressions of the country – from music, arts and culture to race relations and politics – as they travel around during the first few months of 2014.

The blogs are written by Oxford Modern Languages students reading Portuguese combined with another language or other subjects.

Credit: Lily GreenCredit: Lily Green
Lily Green, a Portuguese and Spanish student at St Peter's College, contributed the first blog post.

She told Arts at Oxford: 'The project evolved from a series of meetings. I met Juliana Iootty of the BBC during Brazil Week, a cultural event organised by one my tutors, Dr Claire Williams.

'Juliana suggested that some of the Portuguese students should come and visit Broadcasting House, where we were given a tour and talked about potential projects. We then had a second meeting with Silvia Salek of BBC Brasil, who suggested the blog.

'So it was pretty organic, and Juliana and Silvia were both really encouraging and just as enthusiastic about the project as we were.'

Credit: Lily GreenCredit: Lily Green
Lily was the first student to arrive in Brazil, and she is convinced being involved with the blog has made her more inquisitive about her surroundings.

She said: 'From living with a host family and talking to them, as well as colleagues and friends, I know that the things I've written about will get a debate going among Brazilian people. They're the kinds of topics that come up on the commute to work, or in the staff room, or round the dining table.

'The writing process has been difficult, as there is so much I want to say, with so many subtleties. Writing about social issues for social media is a world away from our 2000-word essays. But it has been great to step out of the books and into the real world.'

Credit: Lily GreenCredit: Lily Green
Guilherme Perdigão Murta, Language Instructor in Brazilian Portuguese at Oxford, said: 'It is part of the course requirement that our students spend part of their third year in a Portuguese-speaking country, and the interest in Brazil has grown considerably in the past few years.

'The students sometimes move to Brazil with certain preconceptions about the country, and it is always fascinating to see how their views and understanding of Brazilian culture change.

'It will be an opportunity for Brazilians to see themselves through young foreign eyes, and for the students to share what they learn during their time in the country – in terms of both language and culture.

'The BBC Brasil website is an amazing platform for the work of our future Brazilianists.'

Credit: Lily GreenCredit: Lily Green
Lily's first post introduces the blog and explores the series' title.

She said: 'The title is so perfect, really. To get a sense of what it really meant, I would ask people I met what the phrase meant to them. Many people hadn't heard it before but for most it was something false, or something put on just for show.

'In my head I find it easiest to understand it as "sweeping things under the carpet" – not just because you don't want to deal with a problem, but because you don't want anyone to see there is a problem at all.

'So in the first post I was trying to get my head round the title but also highlight a few things I had spied under the metaphorical rug of sunny Brazil – the way there are always two sides to the coin in every aspect of the country. For example, luxury new-age shopping centres sit side-by-side with interior country landscapes that remind me of Nepal; breathtaking natural beauty is coupled with really shocking industrial pollution.'

Credit: Lily GreenCredit: Lily Green
Silvia Salek, acting editor of BBC Brasil – part of the World Service – said: 'When choosing "Para Inglês Ver" as the title of this series we were playing with the idea that Brazilians can present foreigners with a façade that may not necessarily reflect reality, and our bloggers are certainly able to go beyond the façade. 

'The Oxford University students taking part in this project are assuming the role of modern travellers who set out to explore Brazil, but instead of explaining it to their fellow countrymen they are talking to a Brazilian audience.

'We hope that this will be a two-way process in which Brazilians can learn from these students' perspectives and perhaps see how they themselves can contribute to a more diverse understanding of their own country.'

Credit: Lily GreenCredit: Lily Green
Images courtesy of Lily Green (